Exactly and approximately 0.002% of the world’s Desis gnashed their teeth in frustration today as they realized that for all intensive purposes, Sepia Mutiny, the blog they used to sometimes mayhaps read if they were procrastinating for a big test or project, and they had already cleaned their toilet and had their wisdom teeth extracted, was going to cease all operations on a Saturday, a day when no one reads blogs anyway.
Though it took over two weeks for most readers to realize that the site’s demise was imminent, surprisingly, those patrons denied the reality of a declining readership after coming to rely upon the site during eight long years of Mutinous blogging.
Nine people had nearly identical reactions to the news: “What? No! Why? Of course people still read it! I mean, I don’t, but…it should stay alive. We need it!”
One of the 816 Ami Shahs from Chicago, Illinois (read: south Naperville…she just likes to SAY “Chicago” because she likes to pretend she’s Carrie from “Sex in the City” amirite?) was overheard telling her friend Priya Cherian why the site mattered.
“Sepia Mutiny taught me that not all Indian Christians are sell-outs like Bobby Jindal. Like, I totally loathed you until that drama queen A N N A kept going on and on…and on…about the plight of the poor pitiable Malayalam Christian. Like, I totally thought YOU were some lame convert, you know? Because your name is like Priya? But apparently you’ve been literally a Christian for like, years. So you’re fine.”
A man would protect them from themselves. You could never, ever, said Priya, underestimate what a relief it was to have someone waiting for you when you returned from the dance bar. ‘To be held,’ she said, ‘even in the arms of a thief, is worth something.’ – Beautiful Thing
When reporter and novelist Sonia Faleiro (The Girl) meets a lively, fast-talking 19-year old dancer named Leela in Mumbai, she finds herself intrigued by the characters of the dance bar world and decides to learn more. Over the course of five years, Faleiro painstakingly interviews Leela and her friends and family, as well as other key characters in the Mumbai dance bar scene and captures their stories. The result? Beautiful Thing, a captivating nonfiction narrative full of rich prose and powerful Hinglish dialogues that exposes readers to an underground world where people are mere commodities. A world where relatives sell young girls to the highest bidder and dancers lose their value well before their mid-20s. Continue reading →
When I was a rebellious little punk teenager, the only Brown I saw on stage at shows was Tony Kanal playing bass in No Doubt. And he was dating bindi wearing Gwen Stefani, who was by far the coolest rock chick ever. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Sepia Mutiny as a reader that I noticed other punk, alterno, progressive musicians – the most prominent one being of course, M.I.A.
Here we are in the last week of Sepia Mutiny. On these pages as a reader, I’ve discovered some of my favorite songs and as a writer, I’ve gotten to interview some of the most amazing people. I’ve loved discovering new Desi music and examining musicians exploration of hyphenated identities through lyric, music and movement.
Since I love lists – what better way to remember this then… a Top Ten Favorite Mutinous Music Moments.
For the last four months, I have been trying and failing to finish a book gifted me as a Christmas present, The Submission, the first novel by New York Times journalist Amy Waldman, released shortly before the anniversary of 9/11. I had almost completed it this week (grudgingly) before I was made aware of the depth of its popularity. I must confess, I was shocked. The book that I had considered passing to the thrift-store unfinished has in fact received rave reviews from a handful of the nation’s top papers.
The New York Timesnoted its “limber, detailed prose.” The Guardianstated: “Waldman’s prose is almost always pitch-perfect, whether describing a Bangladeshi woman’s relationship with her landlady or the political manoeuvring within a jury.” In The Washington Post, Chris Cleave wrote that Waldman “excels at involving the reader in vibrant dialogues. Additionally, The Submission was namedEsquire’s Book of the Year, Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Novel for the Year, NPR’s Top Ten Novels for 2011 and the list goes on. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan called it “gorgeously written novel” and went so far as to call it the 9/11 novel. High praise, indeed. Continue reading →
I remember when I first noticed this blog called Sepia Mutiny back in August 2004. Manish had linked to a blog post I had written on Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake on August 9; it was one of the site’s earliest posts.
The link was notable to me for two reasons. First, I was amused that Manish would write, “I normally wouldn’t point at a piece referencing Gayatri Spivak and other jargon-filled lit academics…” Ouch, is he talking about me? (Happily, eight years later we have Himanshu Suri and Das Racist, rapping about Arundhati Roy [rhymed with, of all things, "batty boy"!], “Gaya Spivak,” and the Slovenian philosopher Zizek. Jargon is in again, if these dudes have anything to say about it.)
Second, I was a little shocked at exactly how many people seemed to be clicking through. From the beginning, Sepia Mutiny was strikingly popular, so much so that for at least a few years it was routinely rated the most popular blog in India itself. Its success was certainly due to the mix of writers, which was a very talented and energetic pool (Manish alone was routinely putting up 5 or more posts a day). But I think the site was also clearly filling a need online for discussion of Desi themed subjects, whether political (see Abhi’s early post about Dalip Singh Saund and the Democratic party), or more entertainment oriented (Kal Penn and Harold and Kumar were mentioned in the first week as well).
Even when it wasn’t always smooth-sailing within the circle of bloggers, and even when things were difficult for me in my real life outside of the blog, what always drew me to this site was its ‘sandbox’ quality — the idea that this mix of topics and themes ought to be linked. So when Abhi writes that it may be the blog has fulfilled its purpose in part I don’t agree: many of the difficult issues regarding identity, community, and culture South Asians were dealing with in 2004 remain unresolved. But I do agree that in a way the sandbox qualilty of this kind of group blog has for me at least come to seem a little less essential and exciting than it was at the beginning.
With only a couple of Mondays left for a #MusicMonday, I know I had to make this one a song that will stick in your head for a while.
The song is by an MC I’m really surprised hasn’t been covered by the Mutiny before. Brooklyn Shanti, a Bengali DJ coming outta…. well … Brooklyn, I heard about via Mandeep Sethi, my connection to all the latest in Desi hip-hop. Brooklyn Shanti is ridiculously prolific – his website and his bandcamp have tons of songs available for download and he’ll be coming out with an album in the next couple of months. Of course, I have an affinity for all things Bengali, and I absolutely instantly fell in love when I heard his Bangla lyric-ed song Rani, Rani.
His theme song’s not so bad either. Keep an eye on this guy – Brooklyn Shanti’s going to be going far with these skills.
Check out his bandcamp discography – if you like the above songs, I’m sure you’ll like what else he has. You can download his full album from June 2011 for free right here: Brookylin Circa 2012
I hope you’ve enjoyed the #MusicMonday’s at Sepia Mutiny these past couple of years – I started them because I wanted to have some content to provide for you on a weekly basis. After a while though, it became more of a scavenger hunt and a game to find the songs I would actually listen to on my iPod. I’ve found and befriended many of the artists profiled on these pages – and I’m hoping that my fantastical dream of Alterna-Desi Music Fest on the So Cal desert of Bombay Beach with these bands will happen some day. Some day…
I was naive I suppose. I really thought that the jury, upon hearing all the detail that the mass consuming public was not privy to, would acquit Dharun Ravi on all charges, regardless of the fact the prosecutor seemed to be cleverly boxing them in to a particular outcome, armed with ambiguous law. At a minimum I thought the major charges, including the “hate crime,” would be hard to deliberate on, possibly resulting in a mistrial. The comprehensive NewYorker article last month showed that the case, far from being what the media initially portrayed, was full of twists, conflicting behavior, and most importantly I believed, reasonable doubt. A few years back I watched the absolutely brilliant 8-part documentary The Staircase (now apparently free online), about the murder trial of a bisexual man in North Carolina. It forever changed my view of highly publicized trials in America. They seldom have anything at all to do with justice. Everyone involved is a victim. More recently, we saw a miscarriage of justice in the case of the West Memphis three. Ravi’s trial result should not have surprised me.
Ravi is an immature, upper middle class kid and a “casual homophobe” (more on that term later) but he is not a perpetrator of a hate crime. To consider him more than marginally complicit in the death of Tyler Clementi hurts two groups: victims of true hate crimes and the mental health community.
First off, I reject the mostly Right Wing assertion that we should banish the term “hate crime” from our legal system. ”Aren’t all crimes hate crimes” they argue? Such arguments are specious an predicated on the belief that political correctedness is the only reason such a label exists. Bullshit. When a man has a chain put around his ankles and is dragged behind a car because he is black, that’s a hate crime. When a Sikh man is shot for being a “Muslim terrorist“, that’s a hate crime. When a gay man is tied to a fence and tortured, that’s a hate crime. Being stupid while you are coming of age and meeting people with different backgrounds than you? Not a hate crime. Most crimes are committed because of anger, greed, jealousy, or mental illness. A hate crime is different. It is often very violent and there is rarely a personal gain. The crime is committed as an act of domination or intimidation, often based on unjustified fear. Nothing about Dharun Ravi’s behavior, as evinced by texts, emails, tweets, and witnesses shows even an inkling of such a motive. One could argue he was more uncomfortable with Clementi’s socio-economic status than his sexuality! He was also uncomfortable about an older man, a stranger, coming into his room and having sex. Many of us may have reacted poorly in such an instance. What opponents of the term “hate crime” get right however, is that the laws are sometimes so ambiguous that a clever prosecution can convince a jury that a wide variety of crimes meet the legal definition of a “hate crime” and that they have to convict based on the definition alone, regardless of common sense. We have seen “terrorism” laws abused in this same way. I would not be at all surprised if Ravi’s case someday reaches the Supreme Court for this very reason.
Join Manish, Vinod, Pavani and myself for the Cali swagest meetup of your mutinous lifetime in San Francisco on Saturday March 31st. We know that you Alterna-Desi types have already bought your tickets to the 8th annual Yoni Ki Baat performance. “Yoni Ki heh…?” you ask? Desi, please.
South Asian Sisters are back again to present another brand new script with funny, touching, sensational, and thought-provoking raw performances submitted by South Asian women across the country! [southasiansisters]
Please comment below if you will be able to make it! Since this is the last meetup – EVER – I highly suggest out-of-towners fly into SF for a Cesar Chavez long weekend of Mutinous fun. If you have a bar/lounge suggestion (that is open at 4:30pm) do let me know and we can change the local, as long as we keep it in The Mission. And if you can’t come to the meetup but want to keep in touch - you can always find us on twitter, too.
It’s not goodbye – it’s just a farewell, for now. I’ll see y’all on the internet flip side and by that I mean IRL.
It’s been an eventful 24 hours, hasn’t it? The end of an “era”, is how some of you readers generously termed it on various social media sites. It’s really just the end of a site that was once bigger in every way than it currently is. What was once a “must-read-daily” turned in to an “Eh, I’ll poke my head in weekly”-sort of a blog and that’s perfectly understandable. The party has been over for a little while. But while many of you wish we would stay around for at least those weekly visits (you are creatures of routine, aren’t you!), that wouldn’t be right.
We can, however, resurrect SOMETHING weekly: the 55Friday flash fiction challenge. See? I didn’t ignore ALL your tweeted pleas.
I know in the past that I picked a theme to help you start your engines, but somehow, I don’t think that will be necessary this time. Write about whatever you like– just contain yourself in 55 words when you do it. Ready? For old time’s sake…go.